Guest post: Top tips for marketing planning

Jane Ellison-Bates of Manifest Marketing Ltd. provides a quick guide to setting out your marketing plans for 2018

As January gets underway and the gears grind back up to speed in small businesses across Yorkshire, the month also inspires an almost instinctive rejuvenating drive to be better, do better and achieve more.

For most businesses the key to achieving that success lies in subtly improving marketing techniques.  Now is a perfect time to review what has and hasn’t worked in 2017 and to consider refining strategies for 2018.  That doesn’t necessarily mean throwing the baby out with the bath water, but it does warrant an open minded approach to introducing new ideas alongside the tried and tested methods you currently use.

First of all, take a fresh look with your colleagues at what you are trying to achieve and make sure everyone on the team has a chance to contribute feedback and fresh ideas.

Consider your products and services; are they all they’re cracked up to be?  Is it time to refresh them, add something new to the mix? Could they be presented differently to attract a new audience?

Focus on what has proved particularly difficult in the past year and brainstorm ways to overcome objections and stumbling blocks which are holding back sales progress.  Consider factors which may not be within your scope to control but could affect your business positively or negatively, such as new industry trends, the economic climate, the B word, and traditional seasons/cycles in your business. How might you turn these to advantage or overcome them?

Decide your marketing objectives for the next year and make sure the whole team is on board to achieve them, whether the focus is on increasing the number of customers, growing the revenue, increasing profit margin or establishing a stronger market share – or all of the above.  Make sure the objectives are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Timebound.  They don’t have to be cast in stone, so be prepared to be SMARTER as you Evaluate and Revise every quarter.

Who are your top customers when you look at the figures?  What traits distinguish them? Can you target more customers that fit the same profile?  Consider the 80-20 principle; does 80% of your revenue come from 20% of your customers? If so, then why not focus efforts on finding more customers who share the same characteristics as those top 20%.

At the same time, think afresh about your target audience.  How well have you actually researched it? What is your geographical scope and is it time to grow that? Consider the target socio-demographic profile of your current customers, including their gender and age; are these limiting your growth and could innovative marketing tactics attract new customers and sectors alongside your existing customer base?

Consider your competitors and how they are marketing their businesses – what should you avoid or emulate in order to gain more of their market share or consolidate your position. Be sure to check your pricing against theirs to refine your charging structure.

Make sure you know and understand the power of your own USPs (unique selling points) which set you apart, and consider whether you are trumpeting these clearly in all your marketing activity.

How easy is it for people to buy from you?  Are you embracing easy ways for customers to pay, such as Paypal, Stripe or iZettle? Have you considered selling your products online through third party platforms with bigger clout, such as Amazon, Etsy, Treniq and NotOnTheHighStreet.

Not all marketing activity has to be expensive, but managing it strategically is imperative to ensure that your money is well spent.  Set a marketing budget for the year based on your turnover. Research suggests that successful businesses plough back between 5% and 10% of turnover into marketing expenditure in order to continue to grow.  Whilst this amount may not always be realistic for some SMEs, the principle of setting a budget for marketing expenditure for the year - and sticking to it - is imperative.

A strategic approach should combine several elements of marketing, from good branding through to strong social media presence.  While a good website is the foundation of any business today, driving traffic to it, and ultimately to the business, remains the challenge. Good PR is a coveted prize for raising your profile, while carefully considered eye catching advertising promotions, email marketing and direct mail still have their place alongside digital campaigns. There’s no substitute for word of mouth, and it’s no small wonder that networking continues to provide a strong foundation for forging working  relationships which soon translate into business growth, because ultimately it’s still largely about ‘people buying from people’.

Embrace the year ahead and remember to seek every opportunity to champion your business with fresh initiatives as you seek to stand out from the crowd.


For one to one guidance on creative marketing strategies or for a full marketing audit of your business, contact Jane on 01756 720034 or